Alan M. Speir, MD, is Medical Director of ECMO and Cardiac Surgery in the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute. He is board-certified in thoracic and cardiac surgery and received a 2020 Top Doc award from the Washingtonian.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation is facing an unprecedented shortage of blood. Here’s why we urgently need your blood donations — and how you can get started.
Why Is There a Blood Shortage?
Though COVID-19 numbers are down, the demand for blood is higher than ever because:
- Hospitals across the country are once again providing elective surgeries and procedures, which require blood and blood products.
- Many people who delayed care during the pandemic are coming back to their doctors or hospitals to manage chronic conditions. This delay in care is resulting in more serious illnesses and complications in some people.
- Rates of trauma surgeries and other emergencies are surging.
Together, these factors have created a severe blood shortage unlike any we have seen in decades.
The Important Role of Blood in Hospitals
Blood transfusion is a lifesaving treatment that we need in all areas of our hospital. There is no replacement for donated blood. Every day, lives are saved by blood donors. Without a healthy supply of blood, we simply could not perform the complex surgeries and procedures we do today.
Our hospital needs donated blood for people who are undergoing:
- Blood disorder treatment
- Burn treatment
- Cancer treatment
- Emergency surgery, such as from car accidents or natural disasters
- Labor and delivery
- Major surgery
- Organ transplant
Using Donated Blood Responsibly
Blood is a precious resource — and at Inova, we believe in using every blood donation wisely.
That’s why, for decades, Inova Heart and Vascular Institute (IHVI) doctors have been carefully evaluating how and when to use transfusions to save lives.
In the mid-1990s, IHVI began looking at how blood transfusions are used in cardiac surgery. We believed that some heart surgery patients were getting transfusions when they didn’t need them.
Our cardiac surgeons began an aggressive strategy to dive into the data on transfusions and patient outcomes. We teamed up with anesthesiologists, nurses and critical care staff to create updated guidelines for blood transfusions.
Our doctors looked at the data of more than 7.5 million cardiac surgery patients. The data showed that many cardiac surgery patients didn’t need a blood transfusion for a full and healthy recovery. Then we made thoughtful efforts to ensure the blood products went only to those who need it.
We treat blood transfusions like any medical procedure. If a patient doesn’t need it for their health and well-being, we don’t provide it. That means that blood donations at Inova are put to the best possible use — to save lives.
How Inova Used Blood During COVID-19
Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our careful process of evaluating who needs blood products. We found that our blood transfusion requirements and conservation strategies provided better outcomes for many COVID-19 patients.
Some of our most critical COVID-19 patients require extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). ECMO is a device that pumps a person’s own blood through a machine and delivers oxygen-rich blood back to the body. These advanced machines are reserved for people whose hearts and lungs require extra support in critical situations.
Our commitment to careful blood transfusions helped our most severely ill patients. Many people who required ECMO recovered well from COVID-19 without a transfusion. We are proud of our ability to be careful stewards of our valuable blood donations during an uncertain time.
How to Give Blood
Even with the best blood conservation strategies, every hospital requires a regular supply of blood donations. Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs a blood transfusion.
At Inova, we make donating blood fast, easy and convenient. Use our online blood donation scheduler to choose the date, time and location of your blood donation. You can also call our dedicated line at 1-866-BLOODSAVES to speak to someone about donating. Your generous donation could mean the world to someone whose life depends on it.